A team of scientists, including one Stanford University researcher, has developed the first global map predicting the extent of human influence on oceans and coastal ecosystems, according to a study released Thursday.
The study, which is today's edition of the journal Science, claims 41 percent of the world's oceans have been strongly impacted by human activity.
It took into account factors such as commercial fishing, urban and agricultural runoff, and pollution from shipping, as well as climate change.
The study's authors reported their research could be used to inform the management of coastal and ocean resources.
"By seeing where different activities occur and whether they occur in sensitive ecosystems, we can design management strategies aimed at shifting activities away from the most sensitive areas," said Fiorenza Micheli, one of the study's principal investigators and an associate biology professor at Stanford University.
The research team collected data from marine scientists and years of scientific literature and depicted the results on a color-coded map of the planet's oceans.
The map reveals severe impacts in the North Sea waters off northern Europe, the South and East China seas, the Caribbean, and the eastern seaboard of North America. Other areas considered highly impacted included the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Bering Sea and regions of the western Pacific Ocean.
Particularly affected were coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves, rocky reefs and continental shelves, the study reported.
Large oceans areas near the poles remain relatively unaffected, but according to the research, no areas have gone completely untouched.